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Sunday, December 7, 2008

News companies could do more to lead the conversation

I can't remember where I picked up this link to Seth Godin's post on how the New York Times could do better, but it's a goody. A couple of points from it:

1. Use their influence and brand to enable users to spread their content:
Why, precisely, aren't the Zagats guides a NY Times product? Or Yelp? That's a quarter of a billion dollars worth of value that the paper with the most influential restaurant reviews page didn't create. Why didn't they build Wikipedia? Or a platform to influence the way politicians govern?
Couldn't agree more. Surely news companies can make more of their brands by making their websites the places to go for all kinds of useful information and connections, rather than just the kind of information that's been defined as news for the past 50 years.

4. Keep score:
The New York Times bestseller list used to matter a great deal. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy, because bookstores discounted and promoted the bestsellers, which helped them sell more.

We still want to know what the bestsellers are, but the Times works hard not to tell us. There are literally a thousand categories of media that people want to know about (top blogs, top DVDs, etc.) and the Times abdicated their ability to keep score, to be the trusted referee and to drive the short head in almost every form of culture.

Consider this for a moment: Oprah is able to sell ten times as many copies of a book than the New York Times can. The Times abdicated their role as the leader of the conversation about books.

Again, I agree. The door's wide open for news organisations to lead conversation about everything from books to politics to what's on at the movies in localsville. That door won't stay open for ever - someone smaller and nimbler will nip in and take the lead.

To the 'top blogs, top DVDs' list of things people want to know about I might add 'top 3 blogging platforms, reference sites, bookmarking, task management and wiki sites' etc. There's nothing stopping me spending two weeks browsing comparison sites but I'd much rather someone I trusted gave me a useful steer so I could find what I need and get on with my life.

Much more in Seth's post that's worth a ponder.

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